Things are going great for the Celtics. We have a trio of All Stars. We have signed a group of veterans to come off the bench. Ray Allen has been tutoring Rondo in shooting. Everyone has been around for weeks getting to know each other and developing chemistry. Yes, everything is shaping up toward a championship run this season.
But this morning, I was brought back to earth this morning. Doc is still our coach. I have been trying to give him the benefit of the doubt. In spite of his past coaching ineffectiveness here and in Orlando, I keep hoping that with this amount of talent, he has to succeed. Then I read his statements in the Herald article and I got worried all over again.
Rivers said to expect Pierce, Allen, and Garnett to be on the court together a lot during the preseason so they can get comfortable with one another. Rivers is intrigued about determining what players play best with the three stars. The Celtics begin training camp Sunday in Rome and play their first exhibition there Oct. 6 against Toronto. "Whenever they play, a lot of times they are going to be together," Rivers said. "It's not only for them. The rest of the guys have to get used to playing with them, too. That's just as important." Rivers will also experiment with lineups, including one with Garnett, normally a power forward, at center, and one with Pierce or newcomer James Posey at power forward. Rivers also plans on experimenting with a three-guard lineup of Ray Allen, Pierce, and Tony Allen, or Ray Allen, Tony Allen, and newcomer Eddie House. "We have a lot of flexibility," Rivers said.
Is flexibility another word for indecision? For 3 years now we have watched Doc put out bizarre lineups and have 400 different rotatons. We have watched small ball lineups against big lineups and have watched Doc pull players who are doing well and leave in players who are struggling. And now we are approaching training camp. A time when rotations should be set and players should get used to their roles, especially on a team with 9 new members.
So, what is Doc planning for training camp? Playing Garnett out of position at center. Playing our small forward at power forward. Playing a 3 guard lineup that will probably not include any rebounders just as his 3 guard lineups did not include rebounders last season. Suddenly I flash back to last season and envision Scal being the first big off the bench. I see the bigs stopping on the free throw line and waiting for the ball to be passed around the arc while no one is in the paint. And, I worry.
And, we are getting double speak from Doc about playing an up-tempo game this season.
Coach Doc Rivers said during the Celtics' annual media luncheon yesterday that the team could have an aggressive, fast-paced offense this season. He won't, however, decide what type of tempo fits the team best until he gets familiar with how newcomers Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett fit in with Paul Pierce during exhibition games. "I know what we want to run and how we are going to do that," said Rivers. "That's not difficult. But the whole key for us is pace and what is the correct pace of play for us. "I'm going to base my decision on how the big three play. If two of the three aren't sprinters, you can be a fast-paced team but you can't be an uptempo team. There is a difference. I think we can be a fast-paced team. I just don't see us being an uptempo, Phoenix Suns team. I know we're not going to do that." Rivers said the Celtics would push the ball, but there wouldn't be quick shots like the Suns, and he has no problems going into a half-court offense. He has told players outside of Pierce, Allen, and Garnett during pickup games that if they turn the ball over in hopes of being uptempo, they are taking opportunities away from the aforementioned perennial All-Stars.
We're going to push the ball, but maybe not. He will decide on the tempo after getting used to his 3 stars and let them decide the tempo. We may be a fast placed team but then again, we may play a half court offense. We have a point guard who is best in the open court in an up-tempo game. But we won't hesitate to forego his speed, which is his biggest weapon, to play half court if some players don't want to run.
I know, it is too early to panic. But I do worry that we are going to waste a year of our window with a mediocre coach. I know we have 2 players over the limit and Doc needs to evaluate the bottom 4 players to decide who to cut, but he can almost do that without playing them. Manuel and Wallace are good kids and can play, but I think in the end, experience will be the difference between Wallace and Jones since both serve the same purpose on the team. Batista fills a need at center where Manuel plays a position that is full. We don't need to evaluate players like we did with so many young players on the team. We need to develop chemistry and develop rotations and that isn't going to happen with a lot of experimenting.
I hope I am wrong, but I have a feeling that Doc is going to somehow negate the fact that we have 3 All Stars, one of whom is a top 5 player in the league. I have nightmares of bizarre rotations with Scal playing big minutes and Rondo having to slow it down while Garnett stops at the 3 point line and waits for the pass to come.
"The Big 3 are going to have to give up things and do things they have never had to do to win," said Rivers. "Every player in the league says he wants to win, but is it under their own (rules)? Are they willing to get out of their comfort zone and win.
How far out of their comfort zone is he going to take them? Is making Garnett stop out on the arc instead of playing inside considered taking him out of his comfort zone? Is making Pierce play power forward taking him out of his comfort zone? Is playing them out of position, playing them in positions they aren't used to or comfortable with, taking them out of his comfort zone? Is making them play uptempo ball taking them out of their comfort zone? Perhaps with any other coach who didn't have Doc's track record and the questions surrounding his coaching, these statements wouldn't cause concern. It may be too early to worry, but with Doc's past performance fresh in my mind and with statements like these, it is hard not to.